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China Oil Imports Up 30% In December, Gas Imports Hit Record

China imported 30 percent more crude oil in December than a year earlier, Reuters reports, citing fresh customs data.

The surge was the result of independent refiners rushing to exhaust their import quotas before the end of the year. The rush pushed the daily rate of shipments to 10.31 million bpd. That’s the second month in a row when Chinese refiners imported more than 10 million bpd of crude oil, Reuters notes, with the December figure slightly below the record-high November import rate.

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Crude oil imports for the full 2018 averaged 9.24 million bpd, up by a little over 10 percent on an annual basis, or 846,600 bpd more than the average daily import rate for 2017.

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Natural gas imports broke the previous record in December, according to the customs data, which was only to be expected as Beijing sought to make sure there would be no repeat of the December 2017 gas shortage, which was brought about by efforts to reduce coal consumption in favor of gas. However, lack of adequate distribution infrastructure led to outages leaving millions of households in the north of the country without heating.

In December 2018, therefore, China imported 9.23 million tons of gas, both by pipeline and as LNG, up 17 percent on the year. Since it began preparing for the winter early in 2018, total natural gas imports for last year soared by almost 32 percent from 2017 to 90.39 million tons, solidifying China’s position as the world’s biggest importer of the fuel.

The country is also the world’s second-largest importer of LNG because of its drive to shift away from coal and into gas as it fights one of the worst pollution problems globally. This has naturally made it a magnet for LNG producers around the world as its demand for the fuel is expected to rise consistently over the coming years.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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